As if the Mets hadn’t already worn enough egg on their face for having dealt Scott Kazmir to the Rays for Victor Zambrano at the July 2004 deadline, their former lefty took them behind the shed tonight as a member of the Indians. Kazmir struck out 12 Mets hitters over six shutout innings, allowing just four hits and walking none on 97 pitches.
Kazmir’s career barely had a pulse after the 2010 season. He had compiled a 5.94 ERA in 150 innings with the Angels. He fell so far off the map that he spent the 2012 season with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent League.
The Indians took a flier on Kazmir, still just 29 years old, signing him to a one-year, $1 million deal in December. With tonight’s effort, he lowered his ERA to 4.17 and he is averaging nearly a strikeout per inning pitched.
Mets starter Zack Wheeler struggled, walking five in five frames and allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits. Indians reliever Cody Allen surrendered a solo home run to shortstop Justin Turner in the seventh, but that was the extent of the Mets’ offense. After Joe Smith tossed a scoreless top of the eighth, the Indians tacked on some more offense in the bottom half as Nick Swisher hit a grand slam to left field off of Mets lefty reliever TIm Byrdak, putting his team up 8-1. Matt Albers sealed the deal with a clean ninth inning, recording two strikeouts.
The Tigers trounced James Shields and the Royals tonight, so the Indians remain 6.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. They temporarily improve to 2.5 games behind the Rays — in progress against the Mariners — for the second Wild Card.
In a show of good sportsmanship, the Cleveland Cavaliers have moved their championship ring ceremony start time back to 7 PM EDT to avoid conflicting with the start of the World Series opener on Tuesday. The Indians are set to host Game 1 at Progressive Field on October 25, while the Cavs will open the 2016-17 NBA season against the New York Knicks at the nearby Quicken Loans Arena, preceded by a ceremony recognizing their first franchise title.
In the event that the Indians clinch a World Series title, it’ll be the first time Cleveland has seen two championships in the same calendar year since 1948, when the Indians’ last Series title came on the back of the Cleveland Browns’ All-American Football Conference championship against the Buffalo Bills. The same was true for the Dodgers in 1988, when their World Series win against the Athletics coincided with the Los Angeles Lakers’ 11th championship, while Chicago has yet to see a multi-title year among their NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB franchises.
Regardless of the Series’ outcome, Cleveland fans will get the chance to revel in one long-awaited championship win on Tuesday before watching the beginning of a nail-biting conclusion to another long-awaited playoff run. The Cavaliers are scheduled for 7 PM EDT on October 25, while the Indians will take the field at 8 PM EDT.
If any team can turn a six-day rest period into an advantage, it’s the Indians. The club polished off their pennant race with another injured starter and an overtaxed bullpen, as Trevor Bauer exited in Game 3 of the ALCS with a laceration on his right pinky finger, leaving the bullpen to shoulder 16 innings through the last three games of the series. On Friday, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported that injured starter Danny Salazar could rejoin the rotation in the World Series, though he’ll need at least one more simulated game before Terry Francona determines whether or not he’s fit to return for the team’s last postseason push.
Bauer, who has been under the close watch of hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, told the press that he feels confident that he’ll be ready for a World Series start when the final showdown commences on Tuesday. Keeping the wound bandaged is not an option during games, and Bauer said that Dr. Graham decided against additional stitches to keep the laceration from re-opening. Instead, they’re banking on extra days of rest to heal the cut naturally. Should Francona pencil the right-hander into the lineup for Game 3 or 4, he’ll have had 10-11 days to rest his finger between starts — just a hair under the seven games Bauer said he was prepared to pitch.
Salazar, too, has been preparing for a World Series showdown. He’s scheduled to pitch three innings of a simulated game this weekend, and if it goes well, it could land him a spot in the starting rotation alongside Bauer, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, and newcomer Ryan Merritt. Salazar has been sidelined since September 9 with a right forearm strain, and even after undergoing a rigorous throwing program over the last several weeks, any kind of comeback is expected to be curbed by a strict innings limit. Francona has been understandably tight-lipped about his World Series roster, but he hasn’t yet nixed the idea of utilizing Salazar out of the rotation, provided the right-hander remains healthy for another week or so.
The Indians have had to remain flexible throughout their seven-game playoff run after weathering injuries to Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, pushing their rotation through several games on short rest and relying heavily on Andrew Miller and Cody Allen‘s one-two punch in the ‘pen to clinch more than a few postseason victories. While history doesn’t always favor the first team to secure their league’s pennant race, an extra week of rest should only benefit Cleveland’s beleaguered pitching staff.